The Minister of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura, has stated the 5% Import duty tax restored on imported rice in the 2024 Finance Act will not only raise revenue for the government but also protect and promote local rice production in the country.

He made this clarification while responding to concerns and comments from members of parliament during the debate on the FY 2024 Finance Act. The Minister further stated that this proposal will support the Feed Salone programme by ring-fencing the funds from this tax to support rice production.

According to the Minister, this Finance Act also exempts GST on importing equipment and machinery for agriculture and rice production. He also informed them that the FY 2024 Finance Act is rationalising the Tax base by broadening the tax bracket and improving efficiency in tax administration.

The FY 2024 Finance Act also includes other administrative fees from other government agencies and harmonisation of excise duties on both locally produced and imported alcohol and sugary beverages, alterations on taxes on cigarettes, cement and iron rods, reduction in the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) applicable to businesses recording loss, excise tax on gambling etc.

Similarly, the Financial Secretary Matthew Dingie, in the weekly government press briefing, noted that the import duty tax on rice is not new in Sierra Leone but was suspended in 2009 by the government due to the global crisis.

He further explains that since then, the government has been losing about 18 million dollars annually, but the exemption, he said, has not influenced the cost of a bag of rice.

Matthew Dingie sighted several low-income African countries implementing higher import duties on imported rice to support their local farmers, such as Nigeria 70%, Malawi 35%, Rwanda 35%, Gambia 73%, and Sierra Leone, remaining the cheapest in sub-Sahara Africa.

He further noted that the government would prepare a pricing formula for rice, cement, and iron rods that would drive the sales of these essential commodities for the interest of the citizens.

The F.S. also mentioned that the government would open an Agriculture Fund Account with the revenue from the tax on rice to support and fund projects on the Feed Salone Programme to reduce rice importation and improve local production by empowering the Local Farmers.